By Danny Baggott @Dan_Baggie
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Videographer / director: Martin Trabalik
Producer: Danny Baggott, Ruby Coote
Editor: Ian Phillips
Petr Augustÿn manages Fauna Park, a sanctuary that houses more than 150 animals and 40 different species, from monkeys and meerkats to tigers and cougars.
With the help of his family at their home in Lipová, Czech Republic, 53-year-old Petr is the leader of the pack who has been working with dangerous animals for the last 10 years.
Describing the animals as the ‘centre of his life’, Petr interacts closely with Diego – a 44 stone tiger that he hand-feeds and cuddles every day.
Petr told Barcroft TV: “My favourite moment is when I go in with the animals. It’s an incredible feeling, that the animal perceives you as an equal.
“They want to cuddle you and show their love to you. It’s indescribable.
“It’s a kind of adrenalin rush, the respect, but mainly there’s love.”
Petr’s first animal encounter was with two parrots more than 30 years ago – his love grew from there and he began to expand the sort of creatures he was housing.
“First I had parrots, then I added monkeys and enlarged my variety to tigers and big cats,” Petr said.
“Eight years ago, I bought my first puma called Babu. She is a female.
“And then, three and a half years ago, I bought Diego when he was just eight weeks old. He is my tiger.
“Diego was with me a lot until he was nine months old. He even shared my bed. He spent a lot of time with me and animals are grateful for this kind of interaction.”
Petr allows the tiger cubs to interact with his family and live inside their home until they reach a certain age and size.
Tomas Augustÿn, Petr’s son, helps to take care of the ground maintenance at the park and feeding the animals - the big cats eat around 22kg of meat per day.
But Petr is quick to admit the potential dangers that strangers would face if they were to ever enter the animal enclosures.
He said: “My family works with me in the Fauna Park. It’s me, my wife, my son and daughter.
“And we have three other employees that the animals are used to.
“Now, I can recognise what mood they’re in, when I go into the cage and look into their eyes.
“The animal tells you with its behaviour and its gestures, if it’s in the mood to play with you or not.
“If it’s a snoring sound for instance, it’s good, you can enter. The worst case is when the tiger is lying down, with his ears backwards.
“They’ve never attacked me. If a stranger entered however, it wouldn’t end the same way. If it’s someone they don’t know, I don’t think it would end well.
“These animals were born in captivity – and this environment is their safety.
“I think in the wild, that hunger would force them to find some food, but it would be very dangerous. These animals are used to humans. Any contact could be fatal.”
Petr dedicates his life to his animals and is now looking forward to adding more species to his ever-growing collection.
Petr said: “I don’t have a favourite animal, I love them all equally. It’s not about one being better than the other.
“I love them all the same, simple as that.
“These animals are my life. I’d even say my whole family’s life.
“I think that the care and love that they get here, they could never get anywhere else.”